Mint Hill student tied to ‘Violins of Hope’ Charlotte exhibit
by Alan Hodge
When 20-year-old student and actress Savannah Jillani of Mint Hill takes part in the upcoming play “Hope” she will be taking on perhaps her most important stage role ever.
Created by New York playwright Joe Salvatore, the play Jillani will appear in is part of the “Violins of Hope” series of art exhibits, lectures, films and performances at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte based on 18 violins that were recovered from the Holocaust and restored by master violin maker Amnon Weinstein of Israel. The play runs from April 18 to 24.
Other local venues where Violins of Hope activities will take place include the Levine Museum of the New South, Dana Auditorium, Charlotte Mecklenburg Main Library and Temple Israel.
Jillani’s role in the UNC-Charlotte production will be a challenging one.
“The scene is a dream-like sequence in a library where a diverse group of characters such as a rabbi, a teacher and a musician come on stage one at a time and tell their recollections of overcoming hardship,” Jillani said. “I will be playing the part of a Charlotte slam poet named C.P. Maze, an ex-Marine who is having trouble with medical and financial issues.”
Jillani says the scenes were derived from actual interviews with Charlotte residents and will deliver a powerful message.
“It will impact the audience,” she said. “It is a message of hope and ties in with the violins that were played in the Holocaust when there was no hope at all.”
Jillani was one of just 13 actors chosen to be in “Hope” from dozens that auditioned at UNC-Charlotte over a two-day period.
“I was really surprised to be selected,” she said. “It had been a while since I was in an audition and I was rusty.”
Jillani is being modest. According to her mother, Lisa Jillani, Savannah’s talents were exhibited at an early age.
“She has been theatrical since she was 18-months-old,” Lisa said.
Other acting experience Jillani has to her credit include playing Mother Wolf in a Matthews Playhouse production of Rudyard Kipling’s “Jungle Book” at age 11.
She has appeared in several Children’s Theater of Charlotte productions including “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” She won the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte Kim Fiola Memorial Scholarship for her work with younger performers there.
In addition, Jillani has been involved with a group called Playing for Others that raises money for special needs children.
Jillani is currently a sophomore at UNC-Charlotte and hopes to pursue a career in some aspect of theatre where she can share her talents with others.
“I am thinking of becoming a teacher in children’s theatre,” she said. “I always want to be involved in some aspect of the performing arts.”
Want to know more?
For more information on all “Violins of Hope” activities, visit www.violinsofhopecharlotte.com.